He stuck the freshly rolled joint in between his lips as he lifted the lighter. In one swift motion he had lit the joint and illuminated his face just enough for me to see the outline of his features that I’ve been slowly becoming familiar with. Dark eyes surrounded by thick eyelashes, short, trimmed facial hair, and always a too-even smile. Within seconds, it was dark again and all that could be seen was the red end of the joint as he handed it to me.

                I slid my hand around his as I tried to find the end. We sat on the fallen tree at the top of a hill and stared out at the clear sky. We didn’t make it to the top as we had planned, and I was far too out of breath to keep going, so we meandered up an empty path to where we sat. Elk bugled towards our right and a party was happening to our left; we were stuck in the middle, in our own peaceful part of the forest.

                This wouldn’t be the last time that I eagerly awaited the lighter so that I could study the features on his face that I would soon become oh-so familiar with. It also wouldn’t be the last time that I sat patiently as he rolled a joint to hand me. For weeks after this first incident, everyday was spent laughing and sharing anything we had together.

                We spent those few weeks in absolute bliss, a kind of love and excitement that we didn’t think could actually end. We threw ourselves into an abyss of warmth and reassurance. Nights consisted of our bodies intertwined and laughter echoing throughout the room. We could hear others laughing just as much outside the window on the smoking patio. Little did they know that our laughter wouldn’t end after their cigarette went out.

                We kept these late night visits and all day adventures to ourselves, dodging questions that others asked of our activities together. This lasted until the end, when it was too obvious. Our smiles towards each other were different than the ones we gave the rest of our friends. Our hands brushed one too many times while walking and we sat just a little too close together. We were far from being ashamed of spending time together; we just enjoyed our time together and didn’t feel the need to let others in on our activities. We were happy.

                However, happiness is never permanent. When autumn left, so did I. The day he drove me to Denver for the last time was also the first day of snow in Estes Park. The cold, wet snow fell to the ground as we drove the windy roads down the mountain. Silence filled the car as I tried, unsuccessfully, to brighten the mood: poppy music, meaningless conversation, and endless kisses were the best of my efforts. As the ETA on the GPS lessened, our hands that were bound together tightened. We were as unprepared as a couple could be in that moment.

                When we woke up earlier that morning, right before I crawled out of his bed, he had mentioned that it would be the last time that I was laying in it. I didn’t want to believe it and got out of bed to start my day far too soon. I moved away from his warmth and immediately felt the end of the day coming to a near.

                The winding road could have gone on for hours and I would have been content. Holding his hand and speeding down the mountain, it was what felt like home.

                And then the time came, I paused as we both stared at the doors under the big “UNITED” sign. As I side-eyed him, I began to open the car door and awkwardly stepped out.

                We hugged. We cried. We said goodbye.

                This was the first time I felt my heartbreaking when I was supposed to be going home.

                As I watched him climb back into his car, the tears started streaming down my face and I walked away.

                I left my heart and soul in Colorado.

 

Published by Nicole Clement